“An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and employs transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players’ ideas or actions.”
(There’s more interesting stuff to it, I recommend the whole “Alternate reality game” Wikipedia article.)
People in the ARG community (Adrian and Dan Hon, and others in comments) note that QAnon works like, or is, an ARG, perhaps a wild/unintentional one, perhaps not.
There’s some interesting (terrifying) confluence of Dawkins memetics, Bartle player types, cults, and dopamine cycles (particularly during the ennui/powerlessness of rise of fascist authoritarianism (and global pandemic!)).
One of the ARG folks’ concerns is that is “uncontrolled, undirected and unconstrained” and starting to cross over into the real world (people getting elected, killed, etc.) In controlled ARGs, they have noted the need to aggressively tamp down rogue actions by players.
A key innovation (or mutation) of QAnon-as-ARG is that user-generated content, not just gamemaster-generated content, can become canon: “But QAnon ‘solved’ it by being able to co-opt all content that already exists and, like I say above, encourages and allows you to *create new content* that counts and is fair play in-the-game.”
This means that, unlike a regular ARG, it doesn’t consume all the game content and burn out; it just keeps growing.
In discussion, the ARG folks talk about the potential for co-opting or countering QAnon-as-ARG, with more ARG engineering.
I wonder, have the Hon brothers unintentionally created a meta-ARG, with the topic, “QAnon is an ARG”?
Other tweets from the conversation:
“… a lot of the modern ARGs (particularly the smaller scale ones I’ve done that are story driven) have clear mechanisms for players to know what’s in-game vs out-of-game, written codes of conduct, and explicitly tell players what’s off-limits.”
“Yes, ARGs should always have some sort of invisible guard rails designed in, for the safety of both the game’s integrity and player safety. The whole ‘not knowing what’s real and what’s fiction’ thing sounds so cool at first, but if taken literally it’s just irresponsible design.’”
Adrian and Dan Hon kicking off the discussion: